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Cambridge Language Sciences

Interdisciplinary Research Centre
Areas of Interest: 
Human evolution and language
Evolutionary ecology of language and cognitive evolution
Social evolution
Human cultural diversity
Linguistic phylogeny


My research focuses on the evolutionary and ecological underpinnings of humans, their adaptations and behaviour, and their evolutionary history. This research has ranged from early hominins to the evolution of modern human and their diversity, and included archaeological, morphological and genetic approaches. I have a particular interest in the development and application of general evolutionary models to human evolution. Language, as a key element in human evolution, is an important area of research in this field, comprising both the origins and evolution of language itself, and also the processes of linguistic diversification. Current projects with Marta Mirazón Lahr, include the evolution of human diversity, modelling cultural boundaries, Late Quaternary human evolution in West Turkana, the prehistory of the Central Sahara (Libya), and the evolutionary ecology of lithic technology.


Key publications: 

Foley, R.A. & Lahr, M.M. (2011). The evolution of the diversity of cultures. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, pp. 1080-1089.

Dunn, M., Terrill, A., Reesink, G., Foley, R.A. & Levinson, S.C. (2005). Structural phylogenetics and the reconstruction of ancient language history. Science 309, pp. 2072-2075.

Monnott, M., Foley, R.A. & Ross, E. (2004). Affective prosody: whence motherese? Behavioral & Brain Sciences 27, pp. 518-519.

Foley, R.A. (2004). The evolutionary ecology of linguistic diversity in human populations. In: Jones, M. (ed.) Traces of Ancestry: studies in honour of Colin Renfrew. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Foley, R., & Gamble, C. (2009). The ecology of social transitions in human evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 364(1533), 3267–3279. doi:10.1098/rstb.2009.0136

Senior Fellow McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research
Leverhulme Professor of Human Evolution Emeritus
Life Fellow of King’s College
Professor Robert  Foley


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